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Will Gaddafi bring change to African Union?

February 3, 2009

Libya’s often controversial leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has finally won the top seat at the African Union and promised to accelerate his drive for a United States of Africa, but it seems doubtful that even his presence in the rotating chairmanship will do anything to overcome the reluctance of many African nations to accelerate moves towards a federal government.

Gaddafi, a showman whose fiery, often rambling speeches, sometimes unconventional behaviour and colourful robes are always a scene stealer at international gatherings, has been pushing for a pan-regional govenrment for years. But like his previous, three-decade drive to to promote Arab unity, it has not aroused much enthusiasm in many quarters. All the AU’s 53 states have said they agree in principle but estimates for how long this will take vary from nine years to 35.

Gaddafi was installed as chairman on Monday, the first time he has headed the AU or its discredited predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity although his aides say he has rejected the role twice before, preferring to work as a backroom reformer. He vowed in his inaugural speech to push forward with his pet project and said if there was not a majority opposed at the next summit in July, this would mean the idea was approved – somewhat discordant with the AU’s traditional way of making decisions by consensus. AU leaders were berated by Gaddafi at a three-day summit in Ghana in 2007 for not agreeing to immediate union but braved his scorn and did not reach a deal. Regional economic power South Africa, with its considerable clout, leads the group of reluctant nations.

Delegates in Addis Ababa said privately that they felt duty bound to discuss the idea on the first day of this summit on Monday because Gaddafi is now an older statesman of the organisation and has poured money into some parts of the continent. But if anything, this meeting slowed down the process further. It agreed to change the AU Commission into a vague authority whose additional powers are not clear, and even that won’t be launched until the next summit. Outgoing AU chairman Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian president, said on the one hand that the authority would have more power but on the other that member states are not willing to give up their sovereignty.

There are also those within the AU who are uneasy about Gaddafi’s prominence, given his previous alleged bankrolling of terrorism, for which he was ostracised by the West up until 2003. Then he was brought in from the cold after taking responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people and abandoning the search for weapons of mass destruction. Human rights groups also accuse his security forces of arbitrary arrest of political opponents and torture.

But whatever your views of Gaddafi, he remains a consummate showman. For years his caravan of hundreds of bodyguards, including a special all-woman unit, and his insistence on sleeping in a tent at AU summits –often in the grounds of luxury hotels–caused pandemonium among press photographers and cameramen.

At the AU summit this year, he flew a group of around 30 customary African leaders to Addis and managed, despite the objections of security men, to bring seven them into the conference hall for his inauguration as chairman. Their gorgeous robes and royal regalia rivalled Gaddafi’s own typically eye-catching golden robes and cap. One of the group, a “king’ from Benin, hailed the Libyan leader as a “King of Kings”, generating one of the most used photographs of the summit.

Is Gaddafi good for Africa or should other leaders ignore him? What do you think?


I think gadafi is all show and no substance, he is only good for making the summit more entertaining with colorful cloth and awkward behaviors. And his united states of Africa agenda derives from single handedly ruling Libya for over 40 years as a king, and assuming he can extend his ruler-ship further afield without taking in to account real issues needed to be addressed. I think most African leaders are far advanced in the practice of democracy, secularism and consider him as a nuisance they can tolerate for a couple of minute every year. Prime minster of Ethiopia and president of Tanzania are the real shows of AU summit. Especially the prime minster who eloquently addressed the real issues facing Africa pointing out steps and resolutions that need be taken to alleviate the continent of deep seated poverty. Also gadafi’s policy towards the west for decades proved unsustainable before he finally reversed it which is one more reason why he is no good for africa and should continue to be ignored by african leaders.

Posted by yonas | Report as abusive

Gadafi is more or less eccendric guy with essence of amusement to children only.His odd behaviour suited more to a buffoon at a circus rather as an leader.

Posted by sudhir | Report as abusive

He is no less crazy than the leader who destroyed two countries, a continent, and the economy of the whole world. None of such, which history will judge, presidents and their nations and religions will be off the hook.

Posted by Lubnani | Report as abusive

hi, i think mr gaddafi should try to convince the afrcan people in case of the head of state because the head of state are actually giving their own view for the idea of bringing africa together through the united state of africa. mr gaddafi need to launch a sort of campagn to the african people try to show the africans the advantage, why they must support the united state of africa that will push some african country to a referendum so that we can see what african people really think of the idea and not what african leader thinks. i really believe if the african people approve the idea they will put pressure to their leaders who are against the plan. than we will find a quick answer.


Hi. The only time we hear of Gadafi is when we have African sumits. Rarely do we notice him during African Crisis. It is definate that his push for a United States of Africa is just but an egoistic need for him to be heard in Africa.
He has avision, but Africa still have cycle of Political crisis to be handled at regional level ruther than continantal. African leaders should be wise to avoid a rushed implemantation of a one man decision but ruther develope it to suit poor Africans in Dafur, Congo,
Somalia and the rest.

Posted by Mark Mulanda | Report as abusive

Since his inception to power with 1969 September coup, Gaddafi has always aimed to achieve regional unity. He started with the Arab world; but latter’s reluctance and relations with West especially Arab states’ answers to international sanctions resulted Qaddafi’s abandonment of Arab unity. So he is trying to form political union with Africa. Since the OAU period, he tried to reform political institutions. However Africa and its organizations have some issues that cannot be overcome easily. First of all, there are huge differences between states. Also, AU has organizational problems; thus Gaddafi’s unity aim may loose its priority in the continent’s agenda. In other words, Gaddafi may focus on urgent problems of the continent and AU. But with one year term and persistent problems of the continent, he may not be successful. However, with Libya’s experiments concerning sanctions, international justice and political Islamist organizations Qaddafi may provide different solutions to Africa’s some problems. Also, Libya is accelerating its relations with West and Libya is temporary member of the UN Security Council. Henceforth, at least, Gaddafi may bring problems of Africa to international agenda.

Posted by Ceren Gürseler | Report as abusive

There we go: Africans tossing stones at somebody before we see his job done. Let’s give this guy a chance! I see in him hope for something better for he fights for the single thing which is absolutely absent in Africa: unity. Think about it, how many Zimbabwe refugees were killed in S.Africa? How about all our unnecessary cross-border squabbles for power or such? I am of those who think Africa needs a benign dictator to set the track straight, so our children would have the right and opportunity to live their dreams.

Posted by Lik | Report as abusive

i have my own reservations about this usa, i am not convinced that those advocating for it have an honest agenda


This is absolute nonsense. In fact the whole AU thing is a farce. A meeting of a bunch of hasbean dictators who can’t even keep their own countries united and then one of them dabbles with the idea of a United Africa. African leaders are all the same, a waste of time and a drain on their own economies from their looting and shameless plunder. The sooner we get rid of this bunch of fools the better. Only problem is, most of them rig the elections anyway. Poor Africa.

Posted by Dee | Report as abusive

This is interesting revelation as Col. Gaddaffi is now chairman of Africa Unity, lets see if he deal with Darfur crises especially his neigbour Bashire in Sudan and Chad as well as the Somalia.
The African unity is never going to work if above issues still does exist without solution. Again corruption, mismanagement, dictatorship, poor agriculture, greed annd poor governance.
Africa has the world resources but yet very poor and when you tallk about Africa, is poverty, aid and corruption. It is a shame.

Posted by Al Carl | Report as abusive

I wish him success. But Africa is only common because it is a continent. Not because all African peoples have the same language, culture, beliefs, resources or leaders with a common interest.

Geographic location doesn’t mean common interest, even within a country so he has a very difficult job.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

Despite historical issues, it would not be bad if Gaddafi could be given a chance. Myself, while I struggle with the idea of losing sovereignty, I can also see Gaddafi’s efforts of United States of Africa as one that calls for a common platform we envisioned against the major issues that Africa faces. Personally, I opt for an economic union and regional integration be given a priority, instead of “united government”. It is also timely and could be influential; given Libya has a current seat at the UN Security Council. Although amusing, Gaddafi’s gold robes and entourages can have a Versace effect on a Paris catwalk, to the crowded international platforms the voice of Africa needs to be heard so badly. A rotational one-year term for one who has a well-intended vision should not marginalize Africa’s problem under this circumstances!

Posted by Sophia Bekele | Report as abusive

Right now what really matters the most is for Africa to be united.
People have to understand that just because Gaddafi is the leader of the AU right now that he will be the ultimate leader of the AU.
We must show some responsibility and try to learn from our historical mistakes and just understand that only African unity can resolve Africa’s problems. We must leave the illusion behind of thinking that each country will flourish on their own. Many countries have made that mistake and paid the price.
So, please … enough!
Let’s be united.

Posted by Sy | Report as abusive

It is disgrace that the African heads have elected Ghadafi as the chairman of AU. Neither Libyans nor their authoritarian head of state deserve to be part of Africa or AU. Citizens form the neighbouring black african countries are called \”charcoal\” by the Libyan cititizens and policeforce punish and imprison the blacks at randon.

Posted by Ken Sheel | Report as abusive

Gaddafi as an African leader …
A little step closer to mankind’s unity, but there are many steps ahead …
Just as in Europe and America : LITTLE steps forward by talkative leaders, but TREMENDOUS pains for the people, who don’t see any vision for their future …

As if a blind herder could in any way lead what looks more and more like PURPOSEDLY BLINDED sheep-people !!!

Posted by John D. Rockefeller | Report as abusive

It may be all for show but, I still like the fact that Mr. Gaddafi is attempting to move forward in a positive fashion. Let’s see what happens next before passing to many judgments.


Whether Leader Gaddafi has brought any change to the African Union or not does, of course, not depend on him being at the head of the AU. The Leader has for fact devoted a big part of his life to Africa unity and continues…..

Leader Gadafi has once said: I once asked all African countries to inform me of the homeland of Gabriel, who was executed in 1800 for leading a genuine revolution in America against slavery. He planned for the revolution, and attacked the city of Richmond together with thousands of slaves, with the aim of establishing an independent state for blacks, but he was arrested and executed, I was trying to find his homeland, so that we could build him a monument on the 200th anniversary of his execution, and I have not received an answer so far. I hope that you will research this, and find out the answer; so that we can we can build him a monument in his homeland, Africa.

Find me someone who, in the craziest, let it be the funniest, moments, could think as truthfully…
Brother leader is the last true one for us; Africans of all coulors… and yes, he is the international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims.

A quick look at the numerous acheivements of the man in Africa, should convince any observer…

Posted by khayaeleya | Report as abusive

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